3 d’agost de 2015

Ann Rule, 83, Dies: Wrote About Ted Bundy (a Friend) and Other Killers

[The New York Times, 28 july 2015]

William Grimes


Ann Rule, whose 1980 study of the serial killer Ted Bundy, “The Stranger Beside Me,” set her on the road to writing dozens of best-selling true-crime books praised for their insight into criminal psychology, died on Sunday at a medical center in Burien, Wash. She was 83.
The cause was congestive heart failure and respiratory failure, said Scott Thompson, a spokesman for CHI Franciscan Health, which operates the Highline Medical Center in Burien.
Ms. Rule’s articles had been appearing in the magazine True Detective for more than a decade when, in the mid-1970s, fate delivered her biggest subject to her doorstep. She was working on a book about a series of unsolved murders in the Seattle area when the police in Utah arrested the man they believed to be the killer, a former law student named Theodore Robert Bundy.
The name did more than ring a bell. In the early 1970s Bundy had been a close friend and colleague, answering the suicide hotline with her on the night shift at the Seattle crisis center where they both volunteered.
Initially, Ms. Rule refused to believe that Bundy was the killer. “For a long time I was holding out hope that he was innocent, that somehow this all was a terrible mistake,” she told The Houston Chronicle in 2003. “And it wasn’t just me, it was all the people who worked with him.”
After Bundy escaped from jail and went on a killing spree in Florida, Ms. Rule changed her mind, and the focus of her book. Published in 1980, it became an instant best seller, admired for its detailed accounts of police procedure, the work of criminal investigators and courtroom drama, not to mention the author’s jailhouse interviews with Bundy.
The book, updated several times, was made into a television movie, “Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me,” broadcast on the USA Network in 2003. Barbara Hershey took the role of Ms. Rule, and Billy Campbell played Bundy, a man Ms. Rule described, in the 2009 edition of her book, as “a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human’s pain and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death, and even after.”
Ann Rae Stackhouse was born on Oct. 22, 1931, in Lowell, Mich. Her father, Chester R. Stackhouse, known as Stack, was a college football, basketball and track and field coach who took jobs all over the country, relocating the family again and again. Her mother, the former Sophie Hansen, taught special education.
As a child, Ann was surrounded by relatives in law enforcement: two sheriffs, a prosecuting attorney and a medical examiner.

On summer vacations in Stanton, Mich., where her maternal grandparents lived in the building that housed the county jail, she helped her grandmother prepare meals for the prisoners.
“I would pass the tray through the slot in the pantry to the prisoners, and they were so nice,” Ms. Rule told The Seattle Times in 2004. “So I would always ask my grandpa, ‘How come they’re locked up?’ I wanted to know why some kids grew up to be criminals and why other people didn’t. That is still the main thrust behind my books: I want to know why these things happen, and so do my readers.”
After graduating from high school in Coatesville, Pa., she earned a degree in creative writing in 1953 from the University of Washington, where she also took courses in abnormal psychology, criminology and penology.
She joined the Seattle Police Department as a provisional officer but left after a year and half when she failed the eye exam. She later earned an associate degree in criminal justice at Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash.
When her husband, Bill Rule, left his job to go back to school, she began writing to make money. (They divorced in 1972.)
Ms. Rule started out freelancing for baby-care magazines, Sunday supplements and true-confession magazines before moving on to publications like Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and Reader’s Digest.
She began writing for True Detective in 1969 under the pseudonyms Arthur Stone, Chris Hansen and Andy Stack, using male names at her editors’ insistence. She wrote two 10,000-word articles a week for the next 13 years.
After the success of the Bundy book, which she wrote under her own name, Ms. Rule wrote three books on serial killers as Andy Stack: “The Want-Ad Killer,” “Lust Killer” and “The I-5 Killer.” She also wrote a novel, “Possession,” loosely based on a murder in Oregon.
Soon she settled into a productive routine, turning out about two books a year: a hardcover title dealing with the investigation of a single crime, and a paperback in the “Ann Rule’s Crime Files” series, which described a variety of cases. Perhaps not surprising, given her subject matter, she wrote with a wooden baseball bat and a gun at hand, telling interviewers that she saw the world as a dangerous place.
“To choose a book subject, I weed through about 3,000 suggestions from readers,” Ms. Rule told a fan in a CNN chat room in 1999. “I’m looking for an ‘antihero’ whose eventual arrest shocks those who knew him (or her): attractive, brilliant, charming, popular, wealthy, talented, and much admired in their communities — but really hiding behind masks.”
In a crowded field, she consistently led the pack, taking up most of the real estate in the true-crime shelves of bookstores. Reviewing “Dead by Sunset” for The New York Times in 1995, Walter Walker wrote that Ms. Rule “brings to her work the passion, the prodigious research and the narrative skill to create suspense from a situation in which the outcome is a matter of fact, known to many readers before they open the book.”
Her many books include “Green River, Running Red,” “Bitter Harvest” and “Small Sacrifices,” which was made into a television mini-series, broadcast on ABC in 1989, with Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett.
Her latest book, “Practice to Deceive,” about a 2003 murder on Whidbey Island, Wash., was published in 2013.
Ms. Rule, who lived in Normandy Park, Wash., is survived by her daughters Leslie Rule, a writer of paranormal crime nonfiction, and Laura Harris; her sons Michael and Andrew Rule and Bruce Sherles; and seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
To the end, Ted Bundy, and “The Stranger Beside Me,” haunted her. “I really thought in 1980, when I wrote this book, that I could get it all out of my head, it would be very cathartic, and I would never have to think about Ted Bundy again,” she told The Houston Chronicle.
“And yet, he just fascinated people, and he still does. I probably get two emails a day, many of them from women who think they got away from him, and some of them are so close, I think they did.”
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